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Vermont colleges start to see COVID as students arrive on campus

Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 6:44 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2020 at 8:06 AM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Students are moving onto Vermont college campuses-- and so is the coronavirus.

Here’s a look at the latest numbers:

At this time, there are four positive cases at Norwich University and one at Vermont Technical College's Randolph campus.

Castleton University currently has zero positive cases.

Norwich University’s four positive cases come after testing about 500 staffers and faculty and around 800 students moving in.

“We are managing it,” said Daphne Larkin of Norwich University. “We are prepared for this eventuality.”

The school has staggered move-in dates to test students in groups to better contain any possible cases. On August 8 and 9, about 500 students from hot zones and those who took public transportation moved in. This weekend, another 300 students arrived.

All students are tested the day they arrive and then again seven days later. Results take about 24-48 hours.

“We have to be prepared for positive cases and we’re working very closely with the state and doing what they have asked us to do,” Larkin said.

Any student who tests positive is escorted by people in full PPE to isolation, which is a designated floor in one of the dorms.

There, they are checked on multiple times a day from the health and wellness center, they are provided three meals a day and given personal items for entertainment.

Anyone identified through contact tracing is sent to quarantine, a privately owned off-campus building.

WCAX asked if the university is worried about any kind of outbreak, or if decision-makers there feel they have the virus contained.

“We are worried about our responsibility and that is why we have such a rigorous reopening plan that we’re following to the T. And that includes a very controlled in-take process,” said Larkin.

Norwich’s rigorous plan includes a health screening when students first arrive and it continues daily. The survey asks if students or staff have a fever over 100.4 degrees or any symptoms of the virus.

Castleton University students moved in this weekend.

All students living on campus and any students or staffers who will be using campus buildings must be tested.

WCAX asked James Lambert, a Castleton University official if there are any cases.

“It’s really hard to say. I think if you test enough people, eventually that might happen, but I don’t know the likelihood of it,” Lambert said.

The university's classes are all being done remotely this fall.

Senior Jacob Glickenhaus just moved into off-campus housing this Saturday from New Jersey. He was tested for COVID before moving here and again on Monday to be allowed on campus.

Glickenhaus says he sees no reason to be afraid of COVID. He adds most colleges seeing cases have in-person learning models.

"We are all remote, so it is a little bit different. And if people know what to do, it will be prevented," Glickenhaus said.

Larkin says Norwich University has already provided information to students and staff regarding COVID prevention on campus and the conversations will continue.

"Oh, absolutely. We've been communicating for weeks now what our back-to-campus reopening plan is. It's rigorous and nuanced and it's a very complex environment," she said.

Both Larkin and Lambert say families this weekend expressed they are optimistic about the fall semester and excited to move their students in.

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.

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